Waterfront Property Tips: Spring Dock Preparation

Photo of wooden dock


With the hint of spring in the air, it’s a good time to share some weather-change tips. As a realtor specializing in waterfront properties—and a boater as well—what better topic to begin with than preparing your wooden dock for boating season?

Check the structure

A good place to start prepping your dock is with the dock access. Check stairways or walkways used to access your dock. Make any repairs necessary to ensure that your trips to and from your dock are safe. Inspect the dock’s connection to the shoreline as well. Repair, replace, or reinforce as needed, using materials appropriate for this application and safe for the environment.

Now, take a look at the supporting structure. Nothing ruins the start of a great boating day than a dock collapse, not to mention possible injuries to you, your family, and your guests. Look for loose or damaged connections between your dock’s surface and the supporting posts (pylons) or floats beneath. Again, use appropriate materials to repair, replace, or reinforce the substructure.

Next, thoroughly survey the surface planking. Look for splitting, cracking, splintering, and rotting. Also look for severe warping; this can sometimes create elevated plank edges that catch toes and send you unintentionally diving into shallow water or taking a serious spill on an unforgiving dock surface. Also check nails and screws used to fasten the planking for protruding heads, rust, and corrosion. Replace damaged planking and fasteners and make other repairs as needed. (Avoid heavy sanding, however. You don’t want to pollute your waterway with sawdust and splintered wood.)

Give it a good cleaning

Even if you don’t add chemicals, pressure washing is not necessarily a good way to clean your dock. While a pressure washer, using water alone, may nicely remove surface dirt, it might also wash loose wood splinters, hardware, and other debris into the water. Unfortunately, that means scrub brush and hose for the conscientious.

You want to enjoy and protect your waterway, so avoid chemical cleaners. There are alternatives friendlier to the environment. A three-to-one mixture of olive oil and white vinegar cleans stains and salts fairly well. Baking soda-water paste can help with oil stains. Scrub it on, let it dry, and rinse it off. Baking soda is also handy for cleaning metal parts.

Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) cleaners may be approved for your location as well. Ecosystems are delicate, so be sure to do your homework for suitability before going the way of chemicals.

Preserve the wood

Just as you make every effort to help preserve the natural beauty and ecosystem of your waterway, you should likewise think “preservation” when it comes to your dock. Taking preservation steps not only reduces precious boating time lost to major dock rehab or reconstruction, it also minimizes damage to the waterway caused by dock deterioration.

According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), “Painting or staining do not appear to add any life expectancy to the materials and cleaning with sea or lake water is as effective as the use of soaps or solvents.”[i] In fact, most states prohibit using wood that is painted, stained, or treated with material harmful to water quality in dock applications.

So what can you do? You could leave the wood all-natural. A well-maintained wood dock can last a long, long time. But let’s say you really want to do something to make your dock’s wood more water-resistant. You also have the option to find out (more homework) if low-VOC sealants are available and approved for your location. They are specifically for dock application and contain no chemicals or oils that could harm your waterway.

Climb aboard

Your dock is the gateway to your watery paradise. Making sure it is safe for both boaters and the environment is a labor of love. The time you spend keeping it in prime condition will lead to far more hours in the water—where you want to be!


[1] “Management of Small Docks and Piers: Best Practices,” NOAA, available online at  http://coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/initiatives/media/bmp.pdf


Other Resources:

“Wood Boat Dock Maintenance,” DoItYourself.com, available online at                            http://www.doityourself.com/stry/wood-boat-dock-maintenance#b

“Dock Maintenance,” CottacgeTips.com, available online at                                                 http://www.cottagetips.com/tips/cottage-dock-tips/


© 2015 The McDowell Team at Keller Williams Select Realtors

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